The connection between marijuana and athletic performance came to the limelight for the first time in 1998 during the Winter Olympics. Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati – who won Olympic gold in at the pioneering snowboarding games – later had his medal revoked when he tested positive for THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. After an appeal, Ross regained his title based on the argument that marijuana was not a banned substance at the time.
Even after the debate was settled, the question of marijuana’s influence in the sports industry lingered. Superstar athletes like Randy Moss, Nick Diaz, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have admitted to using marijuana to enhance their performance. Let’s take a closer look at just how marijuana may improve the performance of athletes:
Weed and Athletes
A commonly reported benefit of marijuana is the “runner’s high,” which occurs when the body produces compounds that are similar to cannabis during exercise. Taking small quantities of cannabis before exercising can assist the body in producing natural endocannabinoids. The “runner’s high” enables athletes to train for longer periods without experiencing the pain that couples intensive physical exertion. Cannabis also helps muscles relax, and its anti-inflammatory properties help prevent post-workout soreness, enabling a quick recovery.
Marijuana and the Brain
The 700+ compounds found in cannabis are collectively referred to as cannabinoids. When athletes consume marijuana, cannabinoids are absorbed by receptors in the body and the brain. Cannabinoids have an influence on memory, appetite, pain, emotions, and relaxation; moreover, cannabinoids have a neurological influence on the body similar to the “runner’s high,” mentioned in the preceding section. Thus, consuming marijuana has the potential to increase an athlete’s pain tolerance and make intensive exercises easier to endure.
Studies have also shown that consuming low levels of THC increases motor activity in athletes, which might aid in increasing an athlete’s speed. A study done by the University of Bordeaux in France found that when the brain is exposed to THC, it produces more pregnenolone, a naturally-occurring hormone that increases energy and lowers fatigue.
Of course, the way marijuana affects athletes varies from one individual to another. When some people are high, they may feel tired and sleepy; others may feel elevated and energetic.
Some athletes have also reported that marijuana changes their mindset. One long distance runner stated that when he runs sober, he is constantly thinking about the miles he has to cover. The same runner said that when he runs high on cannabis, he doesn’t think about the miles remaining and simply enjoys the experience. This being said, studies of the impact of marijuana on athletes are still very limited and tend to concentrate on the negative effects.
It seems the main reason athletes use cannabis is because of its effect on well-being and anxiety, in addition to enabling them to enjoy a deep sleep before a race or match. Athletes also tend to use cannabis because of its tendency to improve impulsive responses, allowing athletes to take more risks without compromising their decision-making ability. Cannabis can also increase the flow of oxygen in body tissues and assist in enhancing both vision and concentration. For example, an athlete high on marijuana can forget previous traumatic experiences related to the sport such as injuries, pain, and muscle spasms and focus on the game at hand. With these benefits, it is unsurprising that a recent study has found that there has been an increase in athletes’ marijuana usage.
Regardless of the benefits, experts caution that more scientific studies are needed to truly unravel the performance-enhancing effects of marijuana. Doctors caution that inhaling smoke poses health risks, and recommend that athletes taking marijuana should do so through oral medicine, edibles, or vaporizers.
Is All Weed Beneficial To Athletes?
Not all weed is beneficial to athletes. An athlete cannot just ingest any cannabis strain and expect to reap the benefits. Different strains of cannabis contain different amounts of THC, so every cannabis strain has a unique psychoactive sensation. Athletes should avoid cannabis strains that are more likely to make them feel fatigued. One strain that is known to boost concentration and alertness is sativa.
Before selecting a marijuana strain, remember that marijuana is still illegal in most sports and is classified as a performance-enhancing drug. Thus, athletes are often tested for THC, and that having high levels of the compound in your blood can lead to disqualification. That being said, some pro-marijuana groups have rejected this classification based on the argument that marijuana is not the same as injecting steroids that stimulate muscle growth. Proponents have likened marijuana to good nutrition, which enhances performance, but legally.
The article provides you with in-depth information on the effects of marijuana on athletic performance. Athletes, be sure to consider your own specific situation before using marijuana to enhance your performance or relax after an intense training. Know the strain of marijuana that is good for you, and its potential impacts on your health. If you are still in doubt, feel free to send us a question! We are more than happy to assist.